In April 2014, the honourable Supreme Court of India had granted the right to the transgender/transsexual community to classify themselves as the ‘Third Gender’ in order to gain admission in educational institutions and for applications in the job market.
The ruling said “It is the right of every human being to choose their gender.” This decision, though late in its appearance has everything that could make it a landmark in the legal history. After ostracization for years, the community popularly known as the ‘hijras’ in India, seem to have gotten some recognition.
But, how far?
Reality has a different story to tell and the Supreme Court ruling, no matter how revolutionary it seems, is simply theoretical from every aspect. For my part, I do feel that the Supreme Court ruling is a tad self contradictory in nature. How does a transgender who happens to have a “basic right” in choosing her/his gender still have to classify herself/himself in the ‘Other’ category and not male or female? If the “basic right” does happen to exist, then why does the third category have to be introduced at all? However, this rule might bring about change as most of the people would have hoped. And as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.
It is 2015 and a year has gone by. While people in India celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage in USA, how do they fare when it comes to treating their own? The same Supreme Court which has passed the legal recognition for the ‘hijras’ has stay put on the Article 377 under the IPC. A contradiction again. And where do the ‘hijras’ stand? We might not be able to survey the entire country’s population of two million transgenders, transvestites etc. But from the little that I happen to see from my surroundings, I have to admit that their condition is as appalling as it has always been. Society still holds no place for these people. Oh wait. Are they ‘people’ at all?
In a city like Kolkata, you’d see them begging for money in the trains, at traffic signals, parks, near red-light areas etc. Truth be told, the majority steers clear of them and they resort to begging and prostitution and many other such jobs that one wouldn’t take up on will. When they board a train, people turn away or pretend to fall asleep. But, why? It is not the money factor (because you’d hardly spend a rupee or two on them) but the shunning of their mere presence as if it is a disease. I fail to understand how one’s sexuality should affect their acceptance in societal spheres.
There are quite a few ‘hijras’ outside Central Metro Station in Kolkata, the route I happen to take on my way to college every day. They ask every passerby for some money. I hand them a ten-rupee note sometimes, and tell them how difficult it is for us to give them money every day as people like me are not employed yet. As I stand and chat with them for a while, I realize how witty and humorous they are.
The people passing by give us confused and disgusted stares. I feel at a loss again. At the same time, I appreciate many of them for their ability to confidently walk down the street despite all the negative vibe from men and women alike. It is understood that life has taught them things the hard way and they no longer care about opinions. But how many more years till we realize that gender is not a yardstick to judge a person’s capabilities? For how long will they say “amader toh aar toder moto keu chakri debe na. Biye o korbe na” (No one will employ us or marry us, like they will do to you). I bet, more than three-fourths of the people do not even know of the presence of such a legality, let alone try to treat them as normal human beings. It will take a hundred Manabi Banerjees maybe for us to truly accept them as our equal and I do not see that day arriving too soon. Isn’t it ironical that the same ‘hijras’ who are special enough to bless our children are also the untouchables? And that is certainly food for thought.